I wanted to make sure I got this to you. It should be the summer of 2013, right? The great summer before senior year. I’m writing this on our 25th birthday, almost five years from when you are reading this. You’re a naive twenty-year-old college student and I have a lot to share. Things are not going to go as smoothly as you think they are about to go, but sit tight and trust the process, you’re gonna be ok.
Before I get into anything, I just want to say thank you for starting that blog. It isn’t much, but there are people who genuinely appreciate it more than you’ll ever know. Me being the main one. This isn’t just a blog, it’s your personal release from the growing pains you’ll soon experience. Yes, believe it. Crafting funny stories, writing about random tidbits, and sharing your observations on culture are going to do more for you than anything else you see as a “release.” Make sure you stay on top of it, because I sure didn’t. In this letter you may find some wisdom that will make the next five years smoother, if you decide to follow it. I won’t spoil how you learn these lessons, or the rewards you will reap from them, but you have got to hear some of this stuff. So here I go. Lesson #1: Flex your creative muscles, always.
Senior year is going to be amazing; so, slow down and appreciate everything. Appreciate the random nights where you hang with your homies, the morning stroll to class, and the people who share this last year with you. Despite this beautiful picture I just painted, you are going to be scared. You are going to start overthinking about the future, comparing yourself to others, and most importantly, be afraid to fail. There is nothing wrong with you. Also, go to damn class. You are a student first. Don’t forget that. Even if you need to take a little longer to graduate than your friends, it’s ok.
You’re not going to die.
No one is going to judge.
You will finish.
You are not stupid.
Be honest with yourself and learn to say “No.” The bar will always be there; your friends will understand if you turn down their request, your student organizations will understand if you have 50 pages of Media Law to read. Also, it is natural to trust others, so don’t feel weak because of it; however, do not try to shoulder everything. You’re surrounded by amazing colleagues who are always willing help, whenever you need it. There are probably plenty of people telling you to not be hard on yourself, and I’m going to add myself to that list. Lesson #2: Make sure you are always taking care of yourself.
Regardless of what I say, you are going to undertake way too much anyways. I know you, I was in your shoes – literally. You’re probably wearing some Wolf Grey 5’s. You and those damn 5’s. Spoiler alert, we stopped rocking retros. Too mainstream and over priced. It’s ok, life goes on you vain asshole. Do NOT get pissed if a girl you like steps on them-it wasn’t intentional.
Anyways, you are going to notice that every once in awhile you suddenly awaken from a terrible nightmare hyperventilating. Hell, there may even be a day where you randomly leave class and cry in a bathroom stall. You might find yourself not wanting to get out of bed one day no matter how hard you try; you might get very sad all of sudden and not know why. When things are going well, you might also feel a cold grip around your conscious telling you you’re bound to mess everything up. One day, you’re going to be walking on campus and run into your ex. You are going to play it cool because you are a suave bastard, but do not ignore the eerie feeling of imaginary hands grabbing your throat and making it hard to breathe. Definitely don’t skip class to go smoke and drink a pint of Jager. Seriously, do not spend a dime on Jager. It makes you and your stomach angry.
You may experience different iterations of all of these, just promise me you won’t try to fix them alone. I know you really hate asking for help where you’re at now. Trust me, I still kinda don’t. But when you notice these signs, I want you to tell someone. Anyone. You are not crazy. it’s not that your asthma is getting bad, or that you just needed air. You are going to find out that this is something real, and you need to start finding ways to deal earlier than later. For the love of God kid, don’t take this in your own hands. There is no self-prescribed cure, there are just ways to internalize and understand these feelings. You are going to try and find stubborn and unhealthy ways that DO NOT qualify as ways to deal. That stuff is fun, but not when you are using them to forget about uncomfortable thoughts.
When you finally listen and tell someone what you are experiencing and they tell you to go to Counseling and Psychological Services, don’t lose your cool. They are just trying to help, just like you asked. When you are finally seated in that office, accept that you are going to hear some frightening words. It’s called General Anxiety Disorder. It’s called Depressive Anxiety. It’s called Panic Disorder. These are not terms to fear, but terms to embrace. These are not terms to run away from, there are terms you need accept. If one just so happens to be the answer to all these crazy and heavy moods of yours, don’t run out and think a bottle of Jack Daniels will all of sudden make them go away. Eventually you are going to learn that your happiness and your positivity are your greatest medicine. If you hear that voice in your head telling you nasty things like
“How are you going to graduate?”
“ You are stupid.”
“You’re an embarrassment.”
You respond back with a huge smile. A real smile Manny, not the fake one you wear everyday on campus.. A fake smile is a weak cover-up. Strength is learning to find the good in things and finding reasons to smile. It is okay to not be okay. Lesson #3: Learn to smile even when things are tough, but make sure you mean it.
Speaking of Jack Daniels, you’re going to soon discover how amazing whiskey is. Trust me, I know you’re drinking a lot of rum and tequila, but whiskey will change you. Do our body a favor though, take it easy. I’m not saying go cold turkey or anything like that, but keep mental notes about what you are consuming. Whiskey will help you cope with the growing pains, but there are better ways. For example, writing. Keep writing. Don’t ever stop. Ever. If you have a funny or crazy idea, make a note on your phone. You are going to have a lot of moments over the next year that will make you want to sit alone and finish a bottle by yourself. That is clearly not a smart idea, so don’t do it. You may or may not listen, if you chose to do I hope you’re ready to accept the responsibility of the damages you will cause. So have fun, but make sure you are being responsible. Count your drinks, give your card to a friend, let DJ or Lee know you want to stop and they will help. Use your resources kid, and the people who love you are you biggest lifelines. Oh yeah, you’re going to be introduced to tons of drugs you haven’t done before – those are not going to be of any use to you when you are feeling down. I’m not going to be a hypocrite and tell you “no” and slap your wrist, but be careful; you’ll eventually understand what I mean. Lesson #4: Numbing the pain is not dealing with the pain.
Alright, so like I said I am not going to spoil much, but yes, you will graduate. It may not be when you want to, but it will happen. By your side will be your supportive friends, and a special lady whom you bonded with over a stubbed toe. She is going to be to be your biggest support system during your victory lap at Carolina. Do not be afraid of her and do not close her off from your heart. She means well, and you have a lot to thank her for. When she comes into your life, you’ll know. Be patient with her, it’ll pay off big time.
That being said, when you do graduate, the work isn’t over. Your next task; adulting. It will be challenging, and there will be times when your anxieties return. Remember your stress-relief techniques: deep breathing, counting your blessings, stepping away from the stressors. Make this your mantra.
Oh, and another thing, be nice to Mom. As you get older, you’ll realize that she genuinely has your best interest at heart. Even though she’s been twenty before, she’s never had to raise a twenty-year-old before. Just like you are figuring yourself out, she is figuring out how to be the best mom for you. We don’t have kids just yet, but you’re going to realize soon that a mother’s care and love is unparalleled. I’m going to need you to suck it up and really tell her what’s been going with you and how you really feel about things. Don’t expect it to go well because it won’t. It’s going to be one of those “agree to disagree” things. It’s not about winning with Mom, it’s about making sure you both understand each other. She is going to say some things that will really get under your skin.
“What did I do to deserve this?”
“Sad? You don’t know sad. You didn’t grow up like I did..”
“Oh really? Drinking? You turned out just like your father.”
Yeah she’ll go there. So, be patient with her, because sometimes she is probably as afraid as you are.
You know what else will change? Your thoughts on honesty, and whom with you are honest with. I’m not just talking about Mom at this point. This also applies to your friends, and people who turn out to be more than friends. Be patient with them. Being afraid of their reactions, because you can’t predict them, is not a reason to stay closed off from them. Don’t waste your time. Your loved ones deserve your honesty, even if the truth does sting. Eventually, it’s something you will need to incorporate in your life, if you wish to be who you want to be. It will be very hard at first, but use your ears. By listening to them, you will learn more about yourself. Listen. It’s what adults do. Lesson #5: It’s worth having tough conversations if they are with someone you love.
Finally, work will try to overshadow your happiness, do your best not to let that happen. Work is going to suck. You may take a job that seems great only because it’s comfortable. Do not be scared of change either. Embrace it, or run the risk of losing your inner zen, the same zen I’ve worked for the last five years to establish. At this point in time, this zen, this inner-peace; it’s your most valuable possession. You are going to get told “No” a lot and it’s ok. “No” is not bad. Use them as the fuel to your fire. You’ll feel real bummed, and anxiety might show its ugly mug here and there but endure the storm. God has a plan for us, so if there are some wrong turns here and there, embrace them. It will all play out, trust me. I am here because of all the people who told me no. They make the few “Yes’s” so much better. Lesson #6: Do not let “No’s” ruin you, let them improve you.
That’s all I have for you now, kid. After you read this letter, put it away; take it out whenever you are having a rough day, when you get bad news, or when something good happens. I hope this helps you get through our insane life. It doesn’t get easier, but we get through. A lot is about to happen, but the transformation that is coming is because of what you endured. I’ll leave you with some more mini spoilers to keep you motivated:
- You make good enough money now where you bought a new car off the lot, not going to tell you what kind.
- You’re in the search for a house for Mom, she’s ecstatic.
- You are going to learn to love again eventually, and when you do you’ll realize love isn’t a fairytale. It takes work. But it is SO worth it.
- Oh yeah, we lose the weight and we look good.
Keep your head up kiddo. When you turn twenty-five, you are going to look back and appreciate every single obstacle you’ve faced. You are going to smile so much more down the road and the best part is that your smile will be authentic.
Happy Birthday to us.
Keep under-promising and over-delivering,
An older and wiser Talent.